The Committee on Government Reform, Really

By Dana Milbank
Friday, May 5, 2006

There are many who say we have a do-nothing Congress, but Albert Pujols should no longer be one of them.

The St. Louis Cardinals slugger was honored by the House Government Reform Committee, which at a business meeting yesterday moved with alacrity to approve H. Res. 626, commending Pujols for receiving "18 of 32 first-place votes to capture the MVP title" for the National League in 2005.

The panel could not tarry to celebrate Pujols, however. It also had to approve H. Res. 627, congratulating St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter for winning the Cy Young Award after posting "a 21-5 record while also achieving career highs in E.R.A., strikeouts, innings pitched, completed games and shutouts."

Chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.) pointed out that lawmakers were missing the groundbreaking ceremony for the Nationals' new ballpark. "Some of us have passed up the opportunity to be there to conduct the people's business," he said.

And the people had lots of business that needed doing. The people needed the committee to approve H. Res. 753, commending "American craft brewers," and H. Con. Res. 399, recognizing "the 30th anniversary of the victory of United States winemakers at the 1976 Paris Wine Tasting."

Before the tired lawmakers could adjourn, the people demanded that they name four post offices and declare Congress's support for "the goals and ideals of National Passport Month" (H. Res. 327), "National Tourism Week" (H. Res. 729), and "National Children and Families Day" (H. Res. 763).

The committee's ranking Democrat, Henry A. Waxman (Calif.), said all these measures will "give us some opportunity on the House floor to do some business in a session that has been noted for the very few bills that have really been considered in the short period of time in which members have been required to actually work."

That was low -- but fairly accurate. If the current lethargy continues, Congress this year will do even less than Harry Truman's famous "do-nothing" Congress of 1947-48.

The House was in session just 30 days in the first four months of this year, for a total of 206 hours. At that rate, this will be the most slothful House since 1947, when the government started keeping such records. And summer vacation is coming.

The Senate, according to the Congressional Record, has been more energetic (48 days in session this year). But the output of both chambers -- 275 measures passed in the first four months of 2006 -- puts the current session of Congress on pace to turn in the least productive session since the records began.

On the other hand, the 1947-48 Congress blatantly ignored the contributions of Pujols.

But if progress is slow on major pieces of legislation this year, lawmakers have not been idle. At the exact moment the Government Reform Committee was meeting, Rep. Ruben Hinojosa (D-Tex.) was on the House floor. "This year, our Science Academy ranked 11th and our Health Professions High School ranked 91st," he intoned. "My heart swells with pride."

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